We have all heard the stories of how slavery was ended in 1865. Yet, even today there are examples of slavery in the world. I am not talking about conditions that are the "equal" of slavery under one theory or another. I am talking about out-and-out slavery. I am talking about people being kidnapped or tricked and then held against their will. People who must work every day long hours or be beat. I am talking about people who are given no money for their labors. People who are bought and sold.
Why would slavery ever exist? The reason is money. Employees cost money. It's a lot cheaper to steal their labor than pay them.
The surprising thing is that it actually goes on in the United States.
Newsweek Magazine (May 4, 1992) reports that slavery is widespread in two African countries, Mauritania and Sudan. In Mauritania, over 100,000 Africans are enslaved. Their families were made slaves by the sword during the 12th century invasions. In the centuries that followed, they accepted it as natural.
Dada Ould Mbarek, 25, of Mauritania, says he and his whole family are slaves. Mbarek spends his back-breaking day taking water from a well and bringing it to paddies where vegetables are grown.
Mbarek's boss lives in the city and owns many cars. He owns 15 slaves in all.
Women in poor Asian countries are tricked into coming into places like Saudi Arabia with promises of jobs. When they get there they are forced to become permanent household slaves, without pay. They are not permitted to leave and are beaten often to control obedience.
One Filipino who escaped from Kuwait claimed "The whole country was a jail."
Encyclopedia Britannica 1992 World Data Annual shows that the economically active sector of the population in Kuwait is 699,000. And one must remember that this leaves out a lot of unemployed children and old people. And a lot of women. Only 20.6 percent of women are employed.
Yet, the total official population is only 400,000. That shows a lot of workers are from overseas. And, only 9% of all workers are in manufacturing, with only 1% in agriculture. What do the rest of them do?
It seems that 53% of them are in the category of "services." Compare this to the US, where 32% are in services, and Saudi Arabia, where 29% are in services, and Egypt, where 35% are in services. What do the extra 20% of service workers in Kuwait do?
Laxmi Swami, an Indian woman lured with a housekeepers job, escaped when her Kuwaiti "employers" took her on a trip with them to London. She was kept behind bars for 4 years, half-starved, with daily beatings with an electric cord. "Hundreds of times they called me slave, hundreds of times" said Swami.
Anti-Slavery International of Britain says this is all too common, even today. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, embassies in Kuwait were flooded with "guest workers" desperately taking advantage of their one opportunity to escape.
Slavery takes different forms in different lands. In Pakistan and India there is debt bondage. Poor people are tricked with promises of good jobs, but they are isolated and must deal with their employer in every way. The food they buy and other required things are sold only by their employers, with very high prices. The workers are forced to stay and work until the debt is paid off. But the deck is stacked so the debt keeps getting bigger. The "employee" is a slave for life.
And, even beyond life. The children are kept working until the debt is paid, which never happens. Generations are forced to work without ever seeing a day of freedom.
Like other slaveries, force is used to keep the worker in his place. Beatings, threats and killings are commonplace.
The type of work is different, though. In Kuwait they are household servants. In India it is usually profit making work such as working in stone quarries, brickmaking and carpetmaking.
An ABC TV show recently did an expose on slavery as it exists today. It focused on three countries: India, Brazil, and the United States.
In India it was common for agents of manufacturers to go to rural areas and trick uneducated country folk. These people often had never been to a city, and knew nothing of city life. They lived very traditionally and were very poor. India is one of the poorest countries in the world.
The agents would find poor people with a lot of children, and offer good jobs to one or more. Sometimes they would pay the parents an advance on salary, which would be pennies to us, but was valuable to people in India. Then, they would take the children away. They would make all sorts of promises to the parents that were never kept.
The report showed the heartbreak of parents who never saw their children again. All they knew was that their children were gone forever.
Back in the city, the children were put at work weaving carpets. It seems that their little fingers can make tighter, better knots than adults can, making a higher quality carpet. The ABC news camera burst into a room with dozens of children working feverishly at their looms.
One child, named Israel, told his story. Israel was 12 years old. One day agents appeared at his village, and spoke to his parents. They promised he would make money, but they never pay him. They feed him very little. They make him work all day and night, and beat him when he stops. He sleeps on the floor with 40 other boys. He shows his scars for the camera.
When he left his village, they promised he could visit his family every year. In 4 years, he had not seen any member of his family. Naturally, he never went to school. He was way too busy working for that.
It turned out that every boy working there was under 16. Once they got too big, it was cheaper to just dump them on the street in another town, and go round up some more boys. So, if Israel had not been rescued, he would someday go free. But he could never go home....CONTINUES
For further information, please visit the website of the American Anti-Slavery Group.